Harsher sentences planned for stalking and threats in Latvia

Following the tragedy in Jēkabpils, when Leons Rusiņš murdered his ex-partner after stalking her for years, the parliament is working on amendments to the law providing for harsher punishments for similar crimes, Latvian Radio reported on May 9.

The Ministry of Justice recommends imposing a sentence of up to one year in prison for violations like threats to harm or kill, and for stalking. Members of the New Unity faction recommended three years behind bars. The majority of the responsible committee rejected this intention. Discussions on the sentences will continue during the drafting of the amendments.

"We want to change attitudes, we want to change the thought, and it can be done only if we say it is not a criminal offense for which the maximum penalty is three months. It's a crime, it's serious. In principle, we are trying to give a clear signal to both the legal process side and potential offenders," said the chairman of the Saeima Legal Affairs Committee Andrejs Judins.

Judins said that increasing the amount of the penalty could have a deterrent effect, and affect the thinking of those who direct the legal proceedings. Namely, domestic violence is not a minor family conflict, but a crime. Iluta Lāce, head of the “Center Marta” association, added that the application of the law, the change of treatment, and cooperation between the institutions were essential.

“I did not hear an answer about interinstitutional cooperation, and interinstitutional cooperation is very important for us to create a single, clear vision for the prevention of domestic violence,” said Lāce.

There is a greater consensus on the introduction of electronic monitoring. The police could thus react more quickly if a court ruling prevents a potential perpetrator from approaching the endangered person. This proposal is to be submitted for a second reading.

At the same time, the Ministry of Justice proposes to include an aggravating circumstance in the law if the threat, persecution, or ignoring of a restraining order is committed against a relative, spouse, or former spouse. In such cases, maximum prison sentences are proposed for up to three years. 

These amendments are welcomed by the management of both the State Police and the Prosecutor General's Office while stressing the need to also give the State Police the right to impose electronic supervision on potential perpetrators. 

“At the moment, all these proposals relate to the fact that the crimes have already occurred and we are trying to control something. We need to think about the possibilities of law so that it can be prevented and [the perp] restricted immediately,” said Prosecutor General Juris Stukāns.

The Saeima will decide on the amendments to the laws in the first reading on Thursday, May 11. Changes to laws are scheduled to be adopted by summer.

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